One of the most important tasks that is performed on construction sites is the erection of scaffolding. It’s estimated that almost two-thirds of construction workers frequently use scaffolding and most of the accidents related to scaffolding equipment can be prevented. While the appropriate training and supervision is required to use scaffolding, one of the most vital safety considerations is ensuring that scaffolding is erected properly. Without the correct setup, many construction workers are put at risk of serious injuries.
Erecting scaffolding is a high risk activity for both construction workers and the general public alike, so today’s article will offer a general guide outlining the most important safety considerations for scaffold erection.
The first and most important consideration is ensuring that qualified personnel are erecting scaffolding on the construction site. In Australia, there are three types of ‘Scaffolding High-Risk Work License’ (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced) which allows workers to erect various types of scaffolding depending on their qualifications. For example, a Basic license allows workers to erect a modular scaffold but an Advanced license is required to erect suspended scaffolding. Where any scaffolding exceeds four metres in height, it’s paramount that those who erect scaffolding have the appropriate license.
Protecting the public
Many construction sites take place in high density areas where pedestrians are walking nearby. During the erection of scaffolding, it’s paramount that the public are excluded from both the area of work and an adequate area around it. The following steps should be taken:
- Acquire a temporary street/sidewalk closure permit during the course of construction
- Consider disability access along the sidewalks where scaffolding is located
- Place barriers and signs to divert the public away from the construction site
- Incorporate scaffold fans, crash decks, and tunnels into the scaffold as soon as possible
- Never raise or lower materials over members of the public or other construction workers
To mitigate the risks of falls, contractors should identify any hazards, assess the risk of injury, and implement control measures which minimise these risks.
Hazards which can increase the risk of a fall whilst erecting scaffold include:
- Poor environmental conditions such as wind, rain, and glare
- Equipment, materials, or protruding objects below the scaffolding such as pallets, reinforcing steel, rubbish skips, and picket fences
- Unprotected void areas such as ladder access voids
- Incomplete scaffolds or loose components where work is being undertaken
- Insufficient training or supervision
Fall-arrest systems are only required during certain scaffold erection activities and are generally not used when erecting scaffolding because:
- Workers may hit a component of the scaffold before being arrested
- Acquiring suitable anchorage points is difficult
- Constantly hooking on and off the scaffold is inconvenient
- Fall arrest lines could become trip hazards
In addition to the above, the following measures should also be taken:
- Whenever lowering or raising materials, workers must be clipped on or working from a platform that is entirely boarded and has double guard rails and toe boards
- As erection work progresses, a minimum of three board working platforms along with a single guard rail must be provided
- At least one bay of scaffolding should remain boarded out as work progresses and this should be used for ladder access for the full height of the scaffold
- Safe ladder access should be incorporated as soon as possible when erecting scaffolding
One of the most crucial considerations during the erection process is scaffold stability. To ensure your scaffold is stable and doesn’t present any risks of collapsing, ensure that:
- The anchors specified to tie a scaffold to a structure are installed correctly and are appropriate for the base material
- Each scaffold anchor and tie is installed incrementally as work progresses during the erection process
- On a sheeted or netted scaffold, more ties may be required to ensure stability
- Scaffolds are never overloaded with equipment or materials, especially tubes and fitting, during the erection process
- Ensure a thorough inspection of the scaffold structure is performed before the scaffold is used
Naturally, the most influential factor in reducing any accidents when using scaffolding is effective training and supervision. Ensuring that all safety standards are being upheld is a task that needs to be performed continuously. If you have any questions relating to safety during the erection of scaffolding, or you’re interested in obtaining your High-Risk Work License, get in touch with the professionals at Uni-Spanwho can guide you in the right direction. For more information, phone 1300 882 825.